The aspect of Superman which has been oft specifically contrasted in the aspect of control but more egregiously in certain ideas the aspect of absolute power within his identity. For many shapes and forms, he is considered a god albeit a benign one. The aspect that “Man Of Steel” [Brian Michael Bendis/DC/184pgs] poses, unlike “Superman II”, is not domination but annihilation from a being sworn to kill everything of Krypton because it believes that the Kryptonians are a blight on the Galaxy. What is interesting here is the integration of Jal-El, the father of Kal, in a portal when he comes to take Superman’s son [Jonathan] with Lois Lane to show him beyond the basic nature of man. It is much like The Traveler or Q in “Star Trek The Next Generation” summoning their wards or Wesley. The young are seduced by the idea of adventure and not necessarily the end game. The great thing about the art here (as well as the writing) is that you can see the hurt in Clark’s face as he is separated from his new family. All which he lost in the destruction of Krypton comes back cyclically and it can be seen on his face. And when the scourge reaches earth most of his friends including the Justice League can’t help him at all. It is all a matter of perspective. Supergirl finds him at one point buried in the moon of his own accord so the beast pursuing him does not attack Earth again. It may seem like a passive move but interestingly it rings true. Another sequence, which involves the destruction of the minimized city of Kandor which Supes was able to save from Krypton, shows Kal El breaking down in Supergirls arms. We also see his vulnerability when Lois is gone that he is attracted to a female fire chief with that same spark as Lois. There are also certain images like when Superman seems to be screaming in rage as he lifts the Kryptonian killer out of the atmosphere which is chilling. As time evolves, so must Superman and the story in this volume does just that.
By Tim Wassberg
The aspect of the modern revenge thriller whether it be through the Tarantino lens or even within the Liam Neeson “Taken” construct has to have a reason for being but also not take the idea too close to the bone. Tone is an interesting texture as is perspective. In “Scarlet – Book One” [Brian Michael Bendis/DC/184pgs], the protagonist herself starts off in bad ass mode simply because that is her nature. The difference here is that this 20-year-old as a character begins by talking to her audience and explaining the who, what and why even if she doesn’t quite fully understand it. This graphic novel definitely shows the approach with the texture of cause and effect which is made more undeniable by the actual element of the script and early sketches with the words included at the end of the volume. It shows the exercise and the discussion that took place to accomplish the flow of the art and story. The idea at the center is one a little of cliche: of semi innocent love lost. The difference here is that it is fueled by police corruption whom Scarlet wants to expose. Using her actual weapon of violence and using it as a pedestal for change does not make it right but does offer an interesting conundrum. Her ideas are specific and logical and she is level headed….but she is a killer who cannot turn back. This of course makes her the balance of both a pariah and a martyr which is the trajectory she is on at the end of this volume. Memories keep flashing in her head in what could have been done differently. The artist dictates that many of the frames were designed to be anti-cinematic to specifically focus the viewer on Scarlet’s words. That said there is still a sense of lurid color that sweeps through the art specifically in a sequence where Scarlet gives a corrupt officer his comeuppance. “Scarlet Book One” is a slightly different take on the vigilante but with an identity that is its own.
By Tim Wassberg